The chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has tried to allay fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
Sunak tells BBC Breakfast: “Well we’re not there yet, but you’re right, we now believe the coronavirus could spread significantly, and there might be steps that we have to take.”
“We will make those decisions at the right time in a measured way,” he says. “In all cases we want to be guided by the science, we want to do things that are clinically effective and have minimum social cost.”
He said the self-employed would benefit from a cumulative package of £1bn announced yesterday.
On whether schools would be closed, leaving parents who would otherwise be working looking after their children, Mr Sunak says: “At this stage, school closures are not something that we’re being advised is the right step – obviously that’s something that people have talked about – but at each step of this we’re being guided by the science, by the medical advice, and today the best advice is for people to wash their hands.”
He adds that the government “stand ready to provide whatever support is required, especially to small businesses, to ensure that they can help get through this bridge so that people’s jobs are protected as we emerge on the other side.”